Article Title:Brown girls in the ring: Fa'afafine Boxing!
Author or Credit:Matt Akersten
Published on:17th August 2007 - 10:52 pm
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Story ID:4804
Text:After a lengthy drive to the very South Auckland suburb of Otara we arrived just in time. The fights were about to begin so the ticketing people were packing up their stall. The busy-looking woman's face lit up. "Oh, from the gay website, right?" She hastily fastened red paper bands around our wrists. "It's starting now, and you might have to stand... it's a sell-out and all the seats are taken." We headed in and weaved our way through the sea of people. The stadium was packed with several hundred fight fans. Almost all were Samoan, but there were a handful of white faces scattered around. We found seats just seconds before the first fight got started. First in the ring were two boys aged around twelve. As they danced about a woman in the audience yelled: "Go for it son!" We were a bit shocked at first, but it didn't seem as though the boys were doing any sort of real damage to each other. The rounds were a short two minutes' duration, and after three rounds the winner was declared, so it wasn't a 'knockout' type of bout. Next up were a couple of teenage boys, then two young men, then two heavy-weight guys, and things seemed to get bigger and burlier as the fight night progressed. The audience slowly got worked up but it wasn't like in the movies where they bray for blood. Instead, the crowd seemed to see the event as a comedy show, with much laughter when punches connected and outright guffawing when fighters were on the ropes. Every so often between matches one of the Fa'afafine group would appear in the ring and punch the air a little to get the crowd worked up about their bouts, which would be the climax of the eventful evening. But as the male fights wore on we were getting a little bored. The official announcements were all in English but the side comments from the commentators were all in Samoan, so we couldn't appreciate the jokes everyone else got! One of the male fights in particular was exciting, as it involved a very large middle-aged dude who looked like he would have a heart attack any minute. We couldn't take our eyes off him as he huffed and puffed! Was an ambulance standing by? Luckily he was fine after his fight. But he looked very red. A few people in the audience had slipped out to the nearby McDonalds and brought back takeaways to enjoy while watching the show. My friends were pondering whether they had time to do similar, but then came the announcement: "Making history tonight, for the first time in New Zealand, two fa'afafine fights. Who will be the last fa'afafine standing?" In Samoa, where fa'afafine (biological males who live and dress as women) are an accepted part of society, these boxing matches are a regular and popular addition to the sporting calendar. As local fa'afafine boxing trainer Princess Jennifer says: “Fa'afafine are good boxers. They many not have the Sugar Ray foot work, but they certainly have the Muhammed Ali mouth and a David Tua left hook”. Wearing T-Shirts over sports bras, silk skirts, running shoes, head shields, boxing gloves and full make-up, the girls entered the ring. Though both bouts were 'exhibition' fights, where no winner would be decided upon, these ladies meant business! The first fight was a bit of a weird one, with a big and tall girl pitted against a much smaller, leaner opponent, but the second fight was more evenly matched, and better to watch for that reason. The crowd ate it all up, with loud laughter throughout. In no time, it was all over. Queen Tisha, Queen Sandra, Queen Meredith and Queen Mandela all had given the crowd a great show, and genuinely seemed to enjoy the experience themselves. All four received participation medals and cheering from their scores of supporters. The announcer thanked all the sponsors one last time, and then invited the crowd to enjoy a chop suey feast in the dining room. Welcome news indeed -- the entire stadium emptied out in record time! Another twenty Fa'afafine fighters are getting ready to rumble over the coming months. Fancy a ringside seat? See the details at Matt Akersten - 17th August 2007    
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